Sonata: Promises a symphony but delivers a half-hearted hum
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Witnessing an Indian film that’s weaved around the lives of three 60 plus, free-spirited women is as rare as sighting a blue moon. Owing to its rarity, you expect nothing short of greatness. Barring a few extremely special moments, this Aparna Sen film reeks of mediocrity. This is undoubtedly her territory with a capital T but what goes missing are layers of conviction and depth. Unfortunately, we leave the theatre with an incomplete feeling of abandon.
Adapted from Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play, Sonata follows an eventful evening in the lives of three women Aruna (Aparna Sen), Dolon (Shabana Azmi) and Subi (Lillete Dubey). In each other’s company they share awkward silences, exchange anecdotes of their past, relive painful memories and uncover dark secrets.
Aparna Sen’s films come drenched in realism. The way she constructs impactful character arcs are quite impressive. Whether it’s Violet Stoneham from 36 Chowringhee lane or Meenakshi Iyer from Mr and Mrs Iyer, the way these characters peel off layers of realism, drama and passion are arresting. This arresting quality is what Sonata lacks. Aruna is a professor and an author, Dolon is a banker and Subi is a journalist, their past and outgrown shells hold so much scope for intensity, but we never get a justifiable peek underneath the surface. The characters seem realistic but their portrayals lack the depth to linger in your mind.
In the beginning, the scenes between Aruna and Dolon appear staged. Their bickering has an air of plastered realism. Only when Subi enters the picture does the screenplay really take off. These glitches are not expected from a veteran filmmaker like Aparna Sen.
A few beautifully crafted scenes etched in the film provide Sen’s brand of realism. Dolon’s heartfelt confession, a scene involving a little black dress and Azmi’s soulful melodies are moments that are bound to linger in your mind long after you’ve watched the film. If only there were more such scenes.
As actresses, Sen, Azmi and Dubey are quite the trailblazers. Considering their immense potential, their portrayals in this film appears to be sub-standard. They fall behind on the much-needed drama quotient.
The production design and cinematography are poetic. Since most of the film takes place within the four walls of an apartment, the restricted space has to be familiar yet refreshing. The technical team achieves this and also manages to provide artistic relief here and there.
On the whole, Sonata promises a symphony, what it delivers instead is a half-hearted hum. If you are a fan of Aparna Sen’s previous works of art, you will be disappointed. If you are blissfully unaware though, a few magical scenes the film packs could make your experience worthwhile.